New Urbanism, Old Urbanism, Traditional Neighborhoods

…and economic reality.

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/VGJt_YXIoJI&hl=en&fs=1&color1=0x3a3a3a&color2=0x999999&hd=1&border=1

I just was watching this winning video, and the video properly states what New Urbanism is; AKA Old Urbanism, Traditional Neighborhood design.  Of course, as with all Government agendas they don’t mention we should actually return to the effective monetary policies and zoning practices that allowed the creation of these old urban and traditional neighborhood designs, they instead want to dictate and control the build out of these “new urban” designs.  This does cause concern from me, as it is against any notable choice, individual liberty, or freedom of the individual.  Often times the planners and Government leaders push forward with these efforts as if people choose not to live in cities and choose to live in the suburbs.  The politicians and planners often forget, the main enabler of suburbs, sprawl, and the whole damnable aspect of the wasteful, weakness inducing American stereotype is them and they’re debt increasing subsidization of sprawl type development.  Now they try to hold us all accountable to this and people don’t even realize they’re living a heavily subsidized lifestyle.

Anyway, some of the comments on Youtube I just had to answer, because I’m always amazed at the lack of insight, context, or knowledge they often proffer.

From electer1776 these questions for the utopians:
1. How will you get people to leave their nice suburban homes? Force?
2. How will you stop people from fleeing your overcrowded utopia? Force?
3. How will you stop an explosion of crime in your overcrowded hell?
4. What will you do to control concentrated pollution in your overcrowded areas?
5. What size army will you need to oppress the people into your utopia?

This is simple.  There are many cities that prove these answer I’ll provide, including but not limited to;  Portland, OR, New York, NY, San Francisco, CA, San Diego, CA, even gasp Los Angeles, CA.  Add to that density increasing cities of Seattle, WA, Tuscon, AZ, Miami, FL, and hundreds more around the world.  When given options, people do NOT always choose a sprawling suburb.  Just as often, and usually more often, when provided a choice (which we haven’t had for years in the US) of a good city urban life versus the burbs, people will choose the urban lifestyle.  So, to the answers.

1. Offer then a choice.  Over the years people that want culture, night life, development & education, will often leave the burbs for the higher intensity of brain trust & creativity that is alive within cities.

2. People fled American cities for a number of reasons; white flight, mass subsidization of Interstates that encouraged sprawl, a drastic change in zoning which disabled people from living in cities or allowing cities to grow intelligently.  There where a number of reasons, and the flock often goes the way the herder encourages, so thus the people fled cities per what the Government thought was a grand idea – suburbs!  Now we’re slowly finding out, as the market told us before, that suburbs aren’t exactly feasible.  So after 50+ years of debt induced sprawl, we’re being forced to cut back.  No longer is China and others so willing to keep buying our debt.  We’re going to have to start buying our own lives back now, and we’re deeply owned by others already – it’s a tough road ahead.

3. Crime?  Crime is a unique trait of lower income areas generally, NOT of a particular land development.  New Orleans is a prime example of a million plus people, with very high crime for the US.  Portland, Oregon is a prime example of a million plus people, with very low crime in the US.  You are simply correlating incorrect data points.  Correlation is not causation, simple fact.

4. Populated areas often have less pollution than less populated areas.  Take Portland & Seattle for example.  Compare that with Jacksonville, Florida or Atlanta, Georgia.  Both of those cities have tons more pollution, dirtier air, entire ghettos that are polluted in ways many don’t even know anymore.  These ghettos, are primarily suburban sprawl.

5. What size army?  Hell, Portland & Seattle don’t even need police in large number compared to sprawling areas like Atlanta or Jacksonville.  Jacksonville is close in population to Portland, it had more than 2x the murder rate for the last 30 years.  Atlanta, a little closer to Seattle, still vastly higher.  Don’t even get me started on other places like that.  As urban centers have lost the chaotic destruction caused by mass Interstate Subsidy and white flight, they’ve started to become lively again.  As suburbs mature they become more despotic and crime ridden.

I could go on for days.  The defense of suburbia is ridiculous.  The defense is infeasible.  Already, we can’t afford our military or the economic impact of this lifestyle.  So what do we do?

No matter what, we change.

Advertisements

5 Comments

  1. Way to set ’em straight, Adron.

    I think ultimately what will happen now is … pretty much the same.

    If people want to live in suburbs, let them and give them the opportunity. People should live where they are the happiest and feel they would contribute most to their societies.

    But no one should discount the fact that cities are coming back. A younger generation took back what older generations cast aside to the garbage. We’re giving life back to the places that never should have stagnated.

    And this was purely an aesthetic choice, when we had the time and money to do so. Once again, though, we are coming to a time where living in cities will become a necessity.

    Peak oil does carry a doomsday-ish connotation, but we really need to be thinking about how we use energy. For all we know, we are probably on the other side of the peak. That’s Shoe 1. Shoe 2 is how do we cope with the fact that nature has not endowed us with a substitute for fossil fuels that is at least as abundant, as versatile or packs the same energy yield. TECHNOLOGY WILL NOT SOLVE THIS PROBLEM.

    So how do cities help? It goes back to Jane Jacobs’ five factors in "Cities and the Wealth of Nations":
    -Import substitution
    -Access to capital
    -Transplanting goods and services
    -Access to people
    -Access to jobs

    On the downside, city regions will leverage their wealth to acquire dwindling resources. Poorer locales would be priced out. They would have to shed people, who would have to go to the cities to look for work. Cities would also encourage problem-solving, and spawn multiplier markets. Cities could then share their knowledge with other regions, either through trade or through transplantation.

    What will also be key is that once we can’t be reliant on oil, cities will once again locate to relevant areas. The interstates made it possible to transform any patch of land into a community, regardless of whether a massive collection of people was needed there.

    Throughout history, though, cities developed because their function was tied to location. Where were most cities settled first? Near bodies of water, because that was what enabled the earliest forms of trade. Even the contours of the city tended to revolve around the quickest channels for trade.

    Cities then grew due to roads (with protein-laden transportation, ie walking or draft animals) and rail (the "iron horse" flattened the world in a profound way).

    Interestingly, it wasn’t until the 20th century when mass automobile use and the airplane rendered the human scale obsolete. Have you noticed that these two modes of transportation, for a change in travel even more profound than the railroad, have failed to profoundly alter urban functions?

    Yes, people drive everywhere and fly for distances of 150 miles or further. Yet it was the railroad urban form that has to be transformed to accommodate the car and the plane.

    Why didn’t cities’ central business districts merely relocate to airports? Also, why don’t linear central business districts parallel highways? How come the most optimal use for land near a highway ramp a gas station or some automotive business and not Class A office space or housing — the most value-producing uses of land?

    It’s things like these that are going to shape the places we live, and what we are going to have to do to make them livable. We as a society can no longer tolerate "Because I want to" as an acceptable answer to "Why?"

    Reply

  2. Thanks. I’d prefer more of the truth be out there. I know it generally pisses Republicans and Democrats off severely (and Libertarians), but I’d rather have pissed of Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians than people that just don’t know the facts. 🙂

    Reply

  3. "Of course, as with all Government agendas they don’t mention we should actually return to the effective monetary policies and zoning practices that allowed the creation of these old urban and traditional neighborhood designs, they instead want to dictate and control the build out of these “new urban” designs."

    Before I go and make you actually read the Charter for the New Urbanism, could you explain this paragraph a bit more. My initial reaction is that along with almost everyone else who isn’t a new urbanist, the focus seems to be on what the perception of New Urbanism is based on projects that have been constructed under the existing circumstances and market realities rather than the basic tenants of the New/Old Urbanism movement set forth in the Charter.

    Reply

  4. "Interestingly, it wasn’t until the 20th century when mass automobile use and the airplane rendered the human scale obsolete. Have you noticed that these two modes of transportation, for a change in travel even more profound than the railroad, have failed to profoundly alter urban functions? "

    Actually rail came first, then roads. Yes, there were roads – but the roads provided very little mobility — horse and buggies, very slow and inefficient. The streetcar/trolley/interurban/passenger train could carry a lot of passengers at once, much faster – and that’s what started suburbia. Gresham grew not because of the Mt. Hood Highway, but because of the Mt. Hood Railroad (the original one, not the one that runs out of Hood River). Washington County grew not because of the Sunset Highway, but because of the Oregon Electric and Red Electrics.

    (Yes, highways certainly accelerated the pace, but did not start it).

    As for whether people want to "choose" to live in the city…well Portland isn’t a good case. Right now the population of all of Portland’s suburbs outnumber the City of Portland by two to one. Portland’s population is generally stagnant and family population is down. Beaverton and Hillsboro are still growing; so is Vancouver. Much of the success in "new urbanism" isn’t what’s happening in the Pearl, but in neighborhoods like Orenco Station and Villebois. And even then, I’d hardly call these communities "successes" – but rather more sprawl. A real success is seeing communities like Multnomah Village, Sellwood, and Mississippi – tight knit communities where you can walk to a downtown area, yet provide housing that people want to live in. These communities are further defined as successes because they didn’t require government intervention (i.e. massive tax breaks and special laws) to make happen, unlike Orenco (tax breaks for "transit-oriented development" albeit the massive need for new roads to support) or the Pearl District (tax breaks, a LID to siphon tax revenues, and also numerous new streets which didn’t previously exist).

    I agree that when given a choice, people will move where they want to go…but it’s hardly automatic to say that people want to live in the city – I know many people that refuse to live "in the city" and are quite happy and content in Beaverton or even further out. What is needed is to eliminate the tax breaks and the undue government influence. Of course, that also requires eliminating much of Oregon’s land use policies…

    It should also be noted that while Portland cites many other cities (Atlanta, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles) as "failures" – those cities are growing and attracting people; new developments that provide walkable features are being sought after…and that my suburban neighborhood is now more "walkable" than my old City of Portland neighborhood.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s